The first real trailer for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises hit the web yesterday, giving Batman fans worldwide collective cause to hold hands and cry tears of joy. The follow-up to 2008’s The Dark Knight, itself a commercial and critical benchmark for superhero films, will introduce Batman’s ultimate nemesis, the body-building criminal genius Bane, and bring to an end Nolan’s run at the helm of the Caped Crusader.
There’s good reason to be excited for the conclusion of what has been the most solid superhero franchise of the decade, and after Inception Nolan’s fans will salivate at any tidbits he drops in front of them. The trailer for Rises hints at an appropriately epic storyline, with Bane unleashing a wave of violence and terror on a now-peaceful and unsuspecting Gotham City, but a few elements have given cause for concern.
1. Female characters have been the weak link in the last two movies and Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman looks like she may continue that trend. “There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches,” the master thief whispers in his ear. “Because when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large, and leave so little for the rest of us.”
The Occupy Wall Street angle is a little tired by now (do you really want to follow in Brett Ratner’s footsteps, Mr. Nolan?) and feels tacked on and incongruous with the last two films, both thematically and in terms of plot. Did Batman Begins not hinge a large portion of its plot on the assertion that it was the Wayne family whose magnanimous philanthropy derailed Gotham’s complete economic collapse? How very 1% of them. Maybe it’s just a one-liner being played up in the trailer, but if this is going to be Catwoman’s raison d'être, it could prove to be an obnoxious distraction from the Batman/Bane story.
2. The football game. Yes, product placements are a storied tradition and totally acceptable by modern film standards, but on top of becoming incrementally obtrusive to the point of distraction (see Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol, where the camera is painfully contorted into view of every new BMW or iPad gizmo), they shatter the insular world in which the viewer is trying immerse themselves. When Steelers receiver Hines Ward runs down Heinz Field (and make no mistake, an NFL player is a product to be marketed like anything else), I’m not in Gotham City, I’m in Pittsburgh, where they filmed the movie that you just paid $20 to see in IMAX. Comic book movies should help us escape from reality, not remind us that we’re stuck in it forever. Is no universe safe from Tim Tebow? However much the studio was paid for this one, it wasn’t worth it.
3. Towards the end of the trailer, there’s a brief snippet of the Batmobile, which in Nolan’s universe is a military prototype that looks more like a Humvee than any prior iteration of the fabled vehicle, being chased by what looks like an alien hover craft a la, Battle: L.A. While this little detail doesn’t spell doom in and of itself, it suggests a reverse in tone from the previous movies. Nolan’s Batman movies have made their name on a grittier, more down to earth approach and the Batmobile being chased by a flying saucer feels like a step back toward more popcorn action-based super hero franchises.
None of these mean The Dark Knight Rises will be bad. In fact, considering the ingredients and the story it has to build on, it will be very hard to screw up. It will most assuredly make an absurd amount of money. But Christopher Nolan is a human being and human beings can make compromises and bad movies just as often as masterpieces. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
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